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Buffie Blesi is Minnesota’s 2017 Women’s Small Business Champion

Release Date: 
Monday, May 1, 2017
Release Number: 
17.12.MN
Contact: 
Sarah Swenty, sarah.swenty@sba.gov

MINNEAPOLIS – Buffie Blesi has been chosen as Minnesota’s 2017 Women’s Business Champion by the U.S. Small Business Administration. She is the current Executive Director of the Minnesota Chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) and founder and CEO of We Spark Growth, LLC and CEO and co-founder of WorkAround, Inc.

“Meeting Buffie, you can tell she really cares deeply for women, women’s issues and their businesses, explains Nancy Libersky, Minnesota’s SBA district director. “We are lucky to have her dedicating energy to help women-owned small businesses grow in Minnesota.

Blesi has had a long history of breaking barriers for women in business. She spent most of her early career in the banking, investments and insurance industry, rising to senior vice president at TCF Investments and Insurance Group. From there she went to work for a local women-owned consulting firm advising large broker/dealers and registered investment advisory firms on clearing and compliance. It was during her time there running two practice areas and acting as the CFO that she got the “entrepreneurial bug.”

In 2008, before the financial crisis really hit, she explored business ownership, purchasing a franchise license for a small business coaching company called AdviCoach. The financial tide was changing and the housing crisis and recession hit with a vengeance. Starting a business that worked with other small businesses during this time was tough, especially when many of the prospects were just working to stay alive, but Buffie was resourceful.

It was 2011 when she attended a women’s conference and heard a speaker say that less than two percent of all women business owners did a million in revenue or greater. A spark was lit and after some more research, Buffie realized that this was her calling: to increase the success rate (and wealth) of women business owners. Coaching is a tough business in general, but as she started to notice, many of the businesses women owned and ran were small and so were the budgets. Buffie took on a number of clients on a significantly reduced fee, on trade, or pro-bono. Several of these client’s businesses really took off.  

“I believe that women have a greater capacity for changing the economic health of our state and country through their hiring practices, deep passion for their people and dedication to their customers,” says Blesi. “Helping women succeed helps us all.”

To do even more to help other women, Blesi joined the board of NAWBO, started to share the statistics with everyone and re-directed her coaching practice to primarily women. She became the president-elect in 2014 and successfully prepared, solicited and secured the NAWBO National Women Business Conference in Minnesota – for their 40-year anniversary – in October of 2017.

In 2011, in need of greater connections and sick of working from home, she convinced her husband, John Burns, to partner on a co-working space. WorkAround Shared Office Environment has since grown to over 10,000 square feet of private office and meeting spaces for entrepreneurs and corporate telecommuters in the Innovation District near the U of M.

 

Blesi has directly coached and consulted with more than 100 women business owners. These women added more than 200 employees, grew their combined revenues by more than $100 million and are in the next stages of their growth. She participated in NAWBO’s public policy initiatives at the local and national level, spoke to women’s networking groups and most recently was the coaching partner for WomenVenture’s 2016 Scale Up! Program, an accelerator program for 23 growing businesses.

After seeing her coaching clients, especially women, struggle with delegation, she started We Spark Growth, a fully outsourced back-office solution. Business owners receive essential business functions, done by knowledgeable professionals, without the burden of recruiting, training, supervising or worrying about replacing an employee if they leave. They are able to do what they enjoy knowing that their We Spark Growth team is taking care of everything else.

In addition to NAWBO, Buffie has volunteered her time to other business organizations including the Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce, MetroIBA, American Association of Microbusinesses, and has spoken to many organizations on leadership and business growth. She was also a member (and past president) of the Augsburg College Alumni Association and a board member for the Augsburg MAL board and a founder Augsburg Women Engaged.

The SBA, along with the SCORE Association and the Small Business Development Center, will honor Buffie Blesi at the Minnesota Small Business Week Awards Luncheon on May 4, 2017, at the Marriott Minneapolis Northwest in Brooklyn Park, Minn.

For more information on Small Business Week, please visit www.sba.gov/NSBW

The Small Business Administration was created in 1953 as an independent agency of the federal government to aid, counsel, assist and protect the interests of small business concerns, to preserve free competitive enterprise and to maintain and strengthen the overall economy of our nation. The Minnesota District Office provides SBA programs and services to the state of Minnesota. Working with our resource partners across the state, we help businesses start, grow and achieve success. For more information on our programs and services, visit www.sba.gov/mn.

 

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